Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Quantum Horror in the Tales of H.P. Lovecraft

In his day H.P. Lovecraft was known purely as a pulp fantasy and horror writer, and only in recent years has the quality of his writing come to be respected. Though he was largely self-educated, it is remarkable how often this American writer of otherworldly horror instills genuine science into his prose.

Take for example his chilling 1933 tale "The Dreams in the Witch House" about a physics student living in an ancient house that used to be inhabited by a witch familiar with higher dimensions and non-Euclidean geometry.

The story has wonderful lines connected with modern physics:

“Non-Euclidean calculus and quantum physics are enough to stretch any brain; and when one mixes them with folklore, and tries to trace a strange background of multi-dimensional reality behind the ghoulish hints of the Gothic tales and the wild-whispers of the chimney corner, one can hardly expect to be wholly free from mental tension.”

"some circumstance had given a mediocre old woman of the seventeenth century an insight into mathematical depths perhaps beyond the utmost modern delvings of Planck, Heisenberg, Einstein, and de Sitter."

I used the first as the opening quote for my book The Great Beyond, a study of the scientific and cultural history of higher dimensions.

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